Down 511 this week

Naked Lunch (1991)

R  |   |  Drama  |  24 April 1992 (UK)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.1/10 from 33,512 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 148 user | 104 critic | 16 from Metacritic.com

After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally murders his wife and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.


0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

13 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Dead Ringers (1988)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske
Videodrome (1983)
Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a very unusual fashion when he acquires a new kind of programming for his station.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits
Crash (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas
Scanners (1981)
Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A scientist sends a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jennifer O'Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan
eXistenZ (1999)
Horror | Sci-Fi | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A game designer on the run from assassins must play her latest virtual reality creation with a marketing trainee to determine if the game has been damaged.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm
Spider (2002)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A mentally disturbed man takes residence in a halfway house. His mind gradually slips back into the realm created by his illness, where he replays a key part of his childhood.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne
The Brood (1979)
Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle
The Fly (1986)
Drama | Horror | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After the death of his mother, a man tries to discover a meaning to his life, to the universe and to rebuild a relationship with the only family he has left: his brother.

Director: Robert Lepage
Stars: Robert Lepage, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Marco Poulin
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A young journalist (Lespert) helps the French President compile his memoirs.

Director: Robert Guédiguian
Stars: Michel Bouquet, Jalil Lespert, Philippe Fretun
The Novena (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Director: Bernard Émond
Stars: Elise Guilbault, Patrick Drolet, Marie-Josée Bastien
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

After another cardiac arrest, Armand knows he doesn't have long to live. But after more than 70 years in the same house, he doesn't want to die anywhere else. His wife, Rose, has secretly ... See full summary »

Director: Jean Pierre Lefebvre
Stars: Marthe Nadeau, J. Léo Gagnon, Marcel Sabourin


Cast overview, first billed only:
Monique Mercure ...
Robert A. Silverman ...
Kiki (as Joseph Scorsiani)
Peter Boretski ...
Creature Voices / Exterminator #2
Yuval Daniel ...
John Friesen ...
Sean McCann ...
Howard Jerome ...


Not an adaptation of beat writer William S. Burrough's novel but a mix of biography and an interpretation of his drug- induced writing processes combined with elements of his work in this paranoid fantasy about Bill Lee, a writer who accidentally shoots his wife, whose typewriter transforms into a cockroach and who becomes involved in a mysterious plot in North African port called Interzone. Wonderfully bizarre, not unlike Burrough's books. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The book was banned. The film should never have been made. Too late. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for heavy drug content, bizarre eroticism, and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| |



Release Date:

24 April 1992 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$16,000,000 (estimated)


$2,541,541 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


David Cronenberg first met up with producer Jeremy Thomas in 1981 with a view to making the film. See more »


[first lines]
Bill Lee: Exterminator.
See more »


Featured in 1992 MTV Movie Awards (1992) See more »


Midnight Sunrise
Composed by Ornette Coleman
Performed by Ornette Coleman and The Master Musicians of Jajouka
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A masterpiece of interpretive surrealism for Burroughs fans
15 February 2005 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

Lots of people will hate this film, and some will love it.

The bottom line is, if you enjoy, respect, or feel that you understand the work of William S. Burroughs, you should see this film. If you don't know what I am talking about, you should probably not see this film.

The following pedantic and potentially inflammatory review, like this film, pulls no punches and makes no apologies for itself. Read on if you dare.


If any three of the following conditions apply see Naked Lunch:


1. ...know what the term "visual metaphor" means.

2. ...are a Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg fan.

2a. ...are not a fan, but know and respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg

3. ...can't see how the book Naked Lunch could make a good film.

4. ... believe that Peter Weller is an underrated actor.

5. ...thought any of the following films were 'lightweight': Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Last Wave, Heavenly Creatures, Dead Ringers.

6. ...have lived in the New York area for 15 or more years.

7. ...know the relationship between improvisational jazz, poetry, and modern art.

8. ...think you understand what Andy Warhol was trying to do.

9. ... are curious about what the process of writing a novel is like.

10. ...spend a lot of time arguing with inanimate objects.

11. ...without knowing the content of this film, can see a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

You should NOT see this film if any of the following apply:


1. ...consider homosexual love to be evil, wrong, and something you can not sympathize with or understand.

2. ...use the phrase "he's on drugs" to explain behavior and ideas that do not make sense to you.

3. ...do not like or respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg, and you know who they are.

4. have a concept of challenging literature as the latest John Irving novel (no offense to Mr Irving intended - he's easily as great as Burroughs, just sort of mainstream and pop).

5. ..like films which you can walk away from easily.

6. ...don't want to see any film which requires a second viewing to feel as if you've really got any of it.

7. ...view films strictly as a form of entertainment.

8. ...without knowing the content of this film, you can not imagine a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

9. ...don't care to understand most of the following review.

10. ...consider ambiguity and loose ends in a film to be "plot holes" and consider any film which has them to be 'flawed'.


William S. Burroughs is widely regarded as one of America's greatest writers of fiction. A friend and mentor to Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg, Burroughs helped to create the genres of 'beat' - American literary high modernism, and/or post-modernism. He provides highly tactile ironic, seductively repulsive descriptions of the everyday which are at once accurate, fragmented and surreal - in other words - Burroughs recreates the feeling and mood of his time and his experience with hermeneutic precision.

Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is an amalgamation of Cronenberg's interpretation and experience of reading Burroughs, Burroughs own life, and Burrough's legendary novel, Naked Lunch. There are six or more plots operating in six or more interacting layers throughout the film, and the action centers exclusively on Burrough's alter-ego, Bill Lee, as he attempts to discover the relationships between all of these plots. The plots I identify (and an interested viewer will generally be able to identify many more that this) are Burrough's relationship with Joan, Lee's relationship with Joan, Lee's drug addiction, Burrough's drug addiction, Lee's investigations into the secret society of drug trafficking at the edge of the world in Interzone, Burrough's struggle to create/discover himself. However, the theme of the film is more an issue of the Lee/Burroughs character trying and, in the end, failing, to make sense of the connections between these plots.

It is a very self-conscious, personal, brilliantly developed and visually intense film. Yet, despite its self-exposure and openness, the film maintains a certain distance from its audience, as if it has taken on the life given it by Cronenberg and Burroughs and established its own unique personality, which will keep its audience at a certain distance. To really appreciate this, you must watch the film at least a few times.

It is especially significant that Burroughs gave his approval for this project. Burroughs' writing is intensely personal and artistic, and his willingness to allow Cronenberg to position himself and his experience of Burrough's work within the film, and to decenter Naked Lunch is as powerful a testimony to Burrough's own integrity as an artist as it is to Cronenberg's vision.

Most of the people who acted in this film really wanted to be involved in it and it shows. Ian Holm and Roy Scheider are always great. Peter Weller, a big Burroughs fan and a severely underrated actor gives what may be the performance of his lifetime, Judy Davis and Julian Sands are both perfectly cast and powerful in their roles.

This films imagery is necessarily disturbing, disorienting, and, at times, quite comic. Very much in keeping with the feel of Burrough's work.

See it. You don't have to like it to respect it.

252 of 348 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
One of the worst movies I've ever seen. greg32johnston
Bug eating man and other questions blackman_806
was burroughs a pederast? jcbierley1
Why do people... Betty_Beatzer
movies that blur the boundaries of reality sacredrite
The Queer scene saintofkillers-1
Discuss Naked Lunch (1991) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: